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June 12, 2006
Monday Morning Ten Pack, 6/12/06
Josh Fields, 3b, Triple-A Charlotte (White Sox)
The White Sox' first-round pick in 2004, Fields doubled as Oklahoma State's quarterback in college, and when he hit a relatively pedestrian .252/.341/.409 at Double-A Birmingham last year, the organization explained how Fields was still making adjustments to becoming a full-time baseball player. I'm guessing those adjustments have been made. The 23-year-old Fields went 8-for-11 with two doubles, a home run and six RBI over the weekend and, at .343/.432/.599, he leads the International League in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging--kind of a much cooler form of the Triple Crown. With Joe Crede at the big league level, there's no room at the inn, so Fields will likely get to make a legitimate run at ending the season at the top of the leader boards as well.
Jesus Flores, c, High Class A St. Lucie (Mets)
When it comes to position prospects, the Mets are awfully thin, but they entered the season with high hopes for Flores, despite the 21-year-old Venezuelan's miserable 2005 that was beset by injuries and an inability to hit (.216/.250/.339) in the Sally League. This year started much of the same, as Flores didn't get his batting average above .200 for good until May 5th. When he finally did, he went on a tear. Since getting over the Mendoza line, Flores is batting .336 (39-for-118) with ten doubles and nine home runs; on the season, nearly 55% of his hits (29 of 53) have gone for extra bases. Throw in some pretty good defensive skills, and you get a real catching prospect, one who makes other teams jealous.
Yovani Gallardo, rhp, High Class A Brevard County (Brewers)
Gallardo is quickly become the pitching version of Howie Kendrick when it comes to these Monday morning wrap-ups. He keeps showing up, but there's no way to ignore the performance. On Friday night against Jupiter, Gallardo took a no-hitter into the ninth, finishing with 11 strikeouts in 8.1 innings, as he was pulled after surrendering a triple to Dante Brinkley. In his last three starts, he's allowed 11 hits in 23 innings while striking out 33, and overall he's whiffed a minor-league leading 100 in 73 innings, allowing just 51 hits and 20 walks. At the age of 20, he's seemingly ready for Double-A; and if, like me, you think the Brewers are going to be very good very soon, Gallardo just adds to the list of reasons.
Ubaldo Jimenez, rhp, Double-A Tulsa (Rockies)
On Friday night against Arkansas, the 22-year-old Dominican had his best start of the year, firing a complete game three-hit shutout while striking out 10 and walking just one. In his last three starts he's given up just one run over 21 innings, allowing just eight hits, and he's among the Texas League top five in wins, ERA and strikeouts. His stuff is as good as anyone's in the Colorado system, and we've seen these short stints of dominance out of him in the past, only to be beset by either ineffectiveness or injures, which are usually blamed on his violent delivery. Colorado is hoping this run has no interruptions and is the beginning of a road to the big leagues that could end with an arrival in the second half.
Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3b, Double-A Akron (Indinas)
In 2003, the Indians took Kouzmanoff in the sixth round as a safe, cost-effective senior sign out of the University of Nevada, but he's hit everywhere they've put him, as he entered the season with career averages of .315/.380/.520, but future projection was tempered by the fact that he had yet to get out A-ball. While he turns 25 in July and is only in Double-A, this much is clear--Kouzmanoff can really hit. After going hitless on Saturday, the right-handed hitter went one-for-four on Sunday, lowering his minor-league leading average to .423, but keeping alive has season-long streak of not going hitless in back-to-back games.
Cameron Maybin, of, Low Class A West Michigan (Tigers)
Detroit's first-round pick last year was off to a surprisingly fast start this year for the Whitecaps, as while nobody in the industry questioned Maybin's elite-level tools, his inexperience against elite-level competition had many--including the Tigers--preaching patience. Having not played since May 7th with a bizarre injury that prevented him from straightening a finger, Maybin returned to the lineup on Friday, and after an 0-for-3 night, had a home run and five RBI on Saturday, and then two hits, including a double, on Sunday. At .330/.411/.527, Maybin is already showing power, speed (seven stolen bases), and good plate discipline (14 walks in 112 at-bats), and the most frightening thing might be the fact that he still has so much room to improve.
Andrew Miller, lhp, University of North Carolina
Miller was one of the best prospects in this year's draft (if not the best), and on Friday night, he showed why. Pitching in the opener of this weekend's super-regional against Alabama, Miller struck out 11 over seven dominant innings, allowing five hits and walking just one. His fastball got into the mid-90s on several occasions, and at times, his slider was near-perfect--breaking through the strike zone, but starting and ending out of it. As happy as the Tigers officials were with the performance, I'm sure they were even happier with the Tar Heel offense, which turned the game into a blowout and allowed Miller to leave the game after 105 pitches.
Greg Smith, lhp, High Class A Lancaster (Diamondbacks)
Smith didn't become a starting pitcher at Louisiana State until his junior year, and he went from little-known to highly-regarded, getting drafted by Arizona last year in the sixth round. After leading the Pioneer League with 100 strikeouts over 82 innings in his pro debut, the Diamondbacks jumped Smith to the California League, and that lasted all of 13 starts. On Saturday, Smith upped his record to 9-0 and lowered his ERA to 1.63 with seven shutout innings while allowing just two hits, and in his last four starts, he has given up just seven hits over 30 innings while allowing one measly run. His next start will take place in the Southern League, as the organization bumped Smith up to Double-A over the weekend. With excellent command of an average fastball and a plus curve, Smith has solid No. 3 starter potential.
South Carolina Gamecocks
Back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back. That's a lot of back. In Saturday's super-regional game against Georgia, the Gamecocks did just that, as part of six run, two-out rally in the second inning to kick start a 15-6 blowout win. The first three homers came off starter Mickey Westphal, and the next two came off reliever Stephen Dodson, and there was almost a sixth, as catcher Ian Paxton ended the inning with a warning track fly ball to left. Five consecutive home runs has never occurred in the majors, and even with metal bats and uneven competition, the feat tied the NCAA record set by Eastern Illinois in 1998.
Brandon Wood, ss, Double-A Arkansas (Angels)
Here he goes again. After slugging 43 home runs last year in the California League and setting a new Arizona Fall League record with 14 home runs, Wood is on another power run in the Texas League. Sunday's home run against Springfield gives the 2003 first-round pick five home runs in his last 10 games, and 14 on the season to go with 23 doubles in 240 at-bats. The 81 strikeouts remain a concern, but the whiff rate has gone down each month, and with that kind of power and a good batting average, who cares?